By Senior Airman Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Approximately 40 Marines ran to the Little Rock Air Force Base lake and took a rather cold dip for their second annual Polar Bear Plunge Feb. 13.
The two-mile, 10 a.m. run was led by their commanding officer Lt. Col. Jaime Gutierrez.
“The Polar Bear Plunge is something that we do to build morale in our unit,” said Sgt. Adam Miller, KC-130J airframes instructor. “We are a small community here, so it’s a chance for us to get together and do something out of the ordinary where everybody will have a good time.”
As the Marines ran to the lake, they reassured themselves with motivated Marine Corps cadences the whole way there. When they arrived, some Marines had to brace themselves before coming into contact with the freezing water, while others dove right in. Master Gunnery Sgt. David Clark, the senior enlisted Marine in charge of CNATT Marine Unit, did a cannonball. His face and body language upon surfacing defined without words just how cold the partially frozen lake was.
They walked through the mud and partially-frozen mucky water, and the lower they got, it was obvious by the expressions and the sudden change in color on their faces, that the water indeed got colder.
“It was extremely cold,” said Miller.
Though very cold, in true Marine fashion, they didn’t dwell on the water’s temperature; instead, they focused on the purpose of such a mission to bring unit cohesion.
While in the water, the Marines lined up in formation as Gutierrez spoke a few words to his staff. Upon the completion of his words, Gutierrez had every Marine completely douse themselves from top to bottom.
Right after being submerged in the water, before heading back to their barracks, the Marines formed up on ground, and Gutierrez presented a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal to Gunnery Sgt. Chad Debruyne for his leadership and accomplishments while serving in his unit.
Once the awards presentation was over, the Marines headed back to the barracks wet, cold, without any loss of motivation.
Miller said the Polar Bear Plunge enhances the unit’s cohesiveness and allows them to share experiences together.
“I had a great time, like always,” said Miller.
A few Marines ended the morning, not only enthused, but with a few battle scars to take away. The water was so cold, sheets of ice formed and created havoc for the Marines, as they broke through the ice.
An emergency medical team was on standby if needed.
When asked about ignoring the pain and bruises until the end of the activity, Miller just smiled and replied, “That’s just what we do… that’s just what we do.”